What happened? I thought we were cruising along pretty well until Easter and then the weather, especially the weekend weather, just decided to take a trip. While it looks to be a little warmer, the forecast for this weekend is windy until Sunday, with a chance of thunderstorms for both Friday and Saturday. Even when the wind begins to lay out some on Sunday, the forecast retains seas of 3-5 or 4-6 feet through Monday. Like everyone else, I hope this is the end of so much wind.
Some good news came this week when Dr. Louis Daniel, Director of the N.C. Division of Marine Fisheries, announced the recipients of the Waterfront Access Marine Industry Fund grants. There were 13 sites and projects in all. The northeast coast received 6 grants, the central coast received 4 and the southern coast received 3. The total of the grants was just a few dollars shy of $20,000,000, with each region receiving between $6,000,000 and $7,000,000.
The water temperature held pretty much the same this week. The bad news is it is still below 60 in the surf and might not get to rise for a while. The good news is that even with the cold, windy and wet days, the water hasn't cooled any more over the past 2 weeks. Once again Bogue Inlet Pier reported the mid-week water temperature at 58 degrees.
Fishermen at Bogue Inlet Pier braved the winds and rains to have another interesting week. There weren't coolers of fish leaving the pier but some fish were caught. The reports had sea mullet, bluefish, blowfish and some spots being hauled up to the planks. Some of the catches were really nice too! Congratulations to Jesse Meekins, who caught a 1 pound, 15 ounce sea mullet.
There were some red drum caught in the surf at Ocracoke, but the reports were more of how few people were fighting the rain or wind-driven sand. On Friday, April 4, a judge will have to decide whether birds or people have first priority on several Outer Banks beaches. The National Audubon Society and the Defenders of Wildlife have sued to close many of the more popular fishing areas of the Cape Hatteras National Seashore to off-road vehicles. The case was scheduled to be heard today, April 4. It appears the beaches will be closed to off-road vehicles then unless an injunction is granted. For more information, go to http://www.savehatterasandocracoke.com.
This week the wind blew so hard and so often it even put a dent in the catches of puppy drum and speckled trout, which had been the mainstays of inshore coastal fishing for the past several weeks. A few flounder are also being caught along with some stripers well up the rivers. Everywhere I went and everyone I spoke with couldn't get away from the wind as their primary topic.
The striper bite in most of the rivers had been improving, but the influx of runoff rainwater seems to have slowed it this week. There were also fewer fishermen out fighting the elements, which also should reduce the catch. The good areas for inland stripers have been the Pamlico/Tar River around Washington, the Neuse and Trent Rivers around New Bern and the Croatan Sound at Manns Harbor.
There were mixed reports on the shad bite this week. Several rivers had been seeing good shad runs, but the extra rain has swollen the rivers and sent the fishermen home. The Neuse River, specifically above the Hatteras Yachts plant at New Bern up to the Highway 70 Bridge at Kinston has been one of the most consistent for shad for several weeks. A few more shad reports came from the Roanoke River at Weldon.
This week there were a few reports of larger specks, but not as many as the last few weeks. I believe weather was a culprit here also. The creeks off the New River, below Jacksonville, and the Neuse River, between Fairfield Harbor and South River have been the most consistent places for larger specks for several weeks.
I didn't hear any reports of kings this week, but the wind has blown all week. At the last reports, they were holding 25-30 miles offshore and nothing has changed enough to move them very far. West Rock, 210 Rock and 240 Rock are the spots being talked about off Cape Lookout and the ledges around Frying Pan Tower hold that distinction off Cape Fear.
While I also didn't hear any reports from offshore bottom fishermen, I expect they weren't fighting the wind and seas to go either. The first of the big hump-headed spawning sea bass arrived a few weeks ago and should still be there when the wind backs off enough to go. Grouper and snapper should still be there also, just a bit farther offshore.
The only tuna reports I heard this week were from Hatteras. The offshore trip there is short enough several boats tried it in the breezy conditions and had pretty good catches. The catches were mainly blackfins and bluefins, with a few yellowfins mixed in. The ratio of yellowfins to the others should improve over the next few weeks.